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Wrestler Nick Moore unfazed by St. John's shadow

BY MOLLY IRENE OLMSTEAD | FEBRUARY 03, 2012 7:20 AM

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Derek St. John walked into the Iowa wrestling practice room with a slight, barely noticeable limp. The 157-pound All-American grabbed a chair and took his time fastening a plastic brace to his knee. St. John slipped a sleeve over his injury and put on his socks and wrestling shoes.

Redshirt freshman Nick Moore nodded him a greeting as he walked past and climbed into the bleachers to wait for practice to start.

St. John was the second-ranked 157-pounder in the country when he injured his knee in a match against Northern Iowa's David Bonin on Nov. 8, 2011. The sophomore wrestled at 157 in all Big Ten matches and finished fourth at the NCAA championships in 2011, but he has missed five conference matches, Iowa's dual against Oklahoma State, and the entire Midlands Tournament this season.

Redshirt freshman Nick Moore, who has wrestled the matches St. John missed, said he doesn't care that many consider him to be St. John's "fill-in."

"I'm just the guy at 157 right now," Moore said. "I don't know about the status of anybody who's injured. I'm just doing my part on the team, my role on the team at 157."

Moore was listed at 165 pounds before St. John's injury but was asked to drop a weight class in late December. Moore made weight in about 12 days of "cram-packed calorie cuts" in order to wrestle at 157 in the Midlands Tournament.

"There's no guarantee with St. John, and I think [Moore] knows that," head coach Tom Brands said. "We need him, and he knows we need him. And he needs himself, because this is his opportunity."

Moore, finished seventh at Midlands and won a 10-3 decision against Indiana, but then dropped four-consecutive conference matches in his new weight class.

He finally won again on Jan. 29 — in a big way. Moore won an 11-2 major decision against Minnesota's Alex Ortiz, earning a bonus point that helped give the Hawkeyes a narrow 19-17 victory.

"It was really satisfying to finally get another win, especially in Iowa City," said Moore, a West High graduate. "I didn't really think about it as it was all worth it, because there's lot more stuff I want to do with my career here than just win one match."

Fellow redshirt freshman Mike Evans said Moore doesn't act like an underdog and doesn't let the shadow of the previous 157-pounder let him start thinking like one.

"We're young," Evans said. "But we're more than halfway through the season … we've been potty-trained so we're becoming veterans if we aren't already are."

Moore agreed that, even though he's young and wrestling in the place of an All-American, he doesn't feel any pressure from filling St. John's shoes.

There's no hard feelings between the two, they said, and there won't be even when St. John recovers and reignites the competition for the 157-pound spot.

Moore and St. John wrestled together at West High, but always at different weights. They're competing in practice now, but Moore, a self-proclaimed "calm person and laid-back guy," said the competition doesn't bother him.

"We're good friends and I don't think that's ever going to change," Moore said. "I think [the competition] will drive both of us to be better individuals as wrestlers and people and just better all around for the sport."

Follow DI wrestling reporter Molly Irene Olmstead on Twitter.


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